ANZASW Statement on the Oranga Tamariki Pay Equity Agreement

The Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) is pleased to see that Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children, has reached an agreement in principle with its social workers on pay equity.

This decision, by one of the biggest employers of statutory social workers in the country, is an overdue but welcome recognition that the social work profession has been under-compensated for far too long. ANZASW believes that fair pay in the interests of all parties: it will have a positive impact on staff morale and increase the likelihood that more talented graduates and experienced practitioners will be drawn toward Oranga Tamariki, an agency that provides such a vital service to society.

The offer also represents an important acknowledgement of the pay disparity between men and women in the public sector; the majority of social workers employed by Oranga Tamariki, Ministry for Children, are women, who have received lower compensation than their counterparts with similar responsibilities in male-dominated occupations.

The Association believes that a similar deal should be sought for social workers in the community sector, who are also undervalued and unfairly remunerated . We recall the gains that were achieved through negotiations between government, groups of employers and the Public Services Association (PSA) which resulted in a settlement for care and support workers, including colleagues working in mental health and addiction support. We challenge government funders of social service providers to take the lead on this issue to avoid a serious social work shortage in the NGO sector in the future; it is in the interests of all that social services continue to function at the highest possible level.

ANZASW views the offer of settlement this week as a heartening example of the fact that fair pay can be achieved through collective bargaining. This move marks a step toward a state of affairs in which more employers provide their workers with a rate of pay that meets the cost of living, rather than relying on taxpayers to effectively subsidise their wage bill through state support to struggling staff.

We commend the tireless work of the PSA, without which this victory would simply not have been possible. Today’s announcement is the end result of a long process which began in November 2015 when the Union lodged a pay equity claim with Oranga Tamariki’s predecessor agency, the Department of Child, Youth and Family (CYF).

We also thank Tracy Martin, Minister for Children, for her role in securing this agreement in good faith. The outcome of the negotiation represents an early test of the government’s commitment to achieving gender pay equity, which we are pleased to see they have honoured in this case.

The Association looks forward to continued progress on the issue of equal and fair pay in Aotearoa New Zealand and hopes that the recently-announced Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill will progress to Royal Assent with bipartisan agreement